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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 20, 2008

Voorheesville community gets a dose of performance enhancing drug knowledge

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– A decent amount of Voorheesville athletes flocked to the high school’s auditorium on Tuesday night to learn about performance enhancing drugs.

The community forum was hosted by Principal Mark Diefendorf and Athletic Director Joseph Sapienza, who is also the longtime varsity football coach.

The event was planned after five varsity football players were suspended in September for using over-the-counter performance drugs.

“The forum may have been based on what happened with my team,” said Sapienza, “but it’s important to educate everyone about this. It’s information they need.”

The speaker, John Underwood, president and founder of the American Athletic Institute, is an expert on performance-enhancing drugs. He goes all over the country, telling high school athletes that these drugs are seriously harmful and can lead to death.

“I saw what happened to the football team; it came up on my radar,” said Underwood. “I called Voorheesville and asked, ‘How can I help?’ I offered to do a presentation.”

Underwood wanted the crowd to understand how easy it is to buy these drugs online, with a click of the mouse. “These substances are way too accessible,” he said. For high school use to stop, senior athletes need to set an example.

Underwood referred to a substance called Drol NG, an anabolic muscle supplement, saying that this is what the five Voorheesville football players were taking. “This substance is meant for males 21 and over. The product warning alone should stop high school athletes from using,” he said.

Performance enhancing drugs have horrible side effects and no good comes out of taking them, he said. “This is a nasty industry that needs to be regulated,” said Underwood.

The government has spent $4 million on drug testing and only four people have been caught, said Underwood. “Testing doesn’t really work. Education is the way to go,” he said.

Underwood discussed alcohol and marijuana, briefly. He showed a diagram of the brain of a healthy teen who doesn’t use alcohol on the weekends and compared it to one that does. The difference was stunning and the students gasped.

“Damage your brain, damage your body,” Underwood said.

The International Olympic Committee did a test and found that 18 percent of over-the-counter supplements were spiked with anabolic steroids, which he said, “the labels refused to recognize. The steroid and supplement industry is severely uncontrolled,” said Underwood.

The auditorium screen was filled with pictures of ripped, arrogant looking male and female athletes who had been ruined by steroids. There was Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, and professional runners from the past.

Underwood said that 25 percent of high school athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs do so strictly for appearance. “Look at the before and after pictures,” he said. “You can see they were on something by the naked eye.”

Underwood also talked about growth hormones. Testosterone is the main training hormone for both guys and girls. “If you put outside hormones in your body, you’re giving yourself cancer,” he said.

“The government is doing very little to stop the use of PED’s and steroids,” Underwood said, referring to performance-enhancing drugs.

 At the end of the session the audience had three questions for Underwood.

“People didn’t bring up the football team because this is a small community and everyone knows what happened,” said Diefendorf. “It hasn’t been a big issue since it happened a few months ago. The lesson has been learned and we have moved on.”

Underwood stressed the importance of adding a PED section to the school’s code of conduct.

The only guidance offered by the surrent code of conduct is this: “Student involvement in the extra-curricular program shall be deemed to be an acceptance of a lifestyle which supports the philosophy that a student should have a sound, healthy mind and body and the responsibility and commitment associated with this philosophy.”

The code makes no mention of drugs or alcohol.

Diefendorf said he was open to the idea of making it more specific.

“We will definitely consider adding performance enhancing drugs to the code of conduct,” Diefendorf said. “It would be nice to have a more specific code. The code will be reviewed at the end of the school year. There is a good chance for an updated code of conduct next fall.” 

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